The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


When Marketing Goes Utterly Wank …

Look, I get the whiteboard marker business is probably low on most people’s priority.

I also appreciate that if you work in this field, you probably want to feel like you’re doing something special … different … worth while … at least on a bigger scale than simply enabling people to write/draw rubbish in boardrooms.

But – and it’s a huge but – I can’t help but think the people behind the name for this whiteboard marker have slightly lost the plot …

Friendly?

Chisel?

Are they stark raving mad?

I swear to god you would have to be the most coke-snorting maniac to come up with those names.

What’s so friendly about this marker?

Does it do the writing for you?

Does it make your scrawl suddenly look neat?

Do other whiteboard manufacturers make their product hold a knife against your throat?

As for chisel?

A tool designed to hit things that will leave their mark in stone forever is literally the opposite to a whiteboard marker in almost everyway.

Where did that come from?

Did they want to big-up their role and significance or is it their way to add a psychological element to their product in the hope it makes the middle management who use it think their scribblings is the second coming of christ?

I’d respect them more if they named it, ‘A RED PEN FOR BAD MEETINGS’.

Or even ‘THE LOOK LIKE YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING WITHOUT CONTRIBUTING PEN’ …

But a friendly chisel?

Talk about an oxymoron.

Chisel’s aren’t friendly. You have to hit them to make them do anything.

Calling it a ‘stupid chisel’ might be more appropriate which is why the name of this bloody whiteboard pen has depressed me more than being invited to a 6 hour ‘brainstorm’ led by a middle manager who thinks leading a discussion that no one will pay any attention to is a demonstration of their emerging power and influence.

And no, I am not going over-the-top over this issue one little bit.

Ahem.

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Childhood Happiness …

My son.

My cat.

A semi-tidy/messy bedroom.

Colour. Toys. Posters and Paintings.

Books to Dolls houses to Magnetic Blocks.

This photo makes me so very, very happy.

Not just because of Otis and Rosie – though obviously that is great – but as childhood photos go, I can’t help but feel this is how it should be.

Now, of course, this ‘look’ – excluding my son and cat – is often the sort of thing you also find inside ad agencies.

I remember an old boss telling me that when he took his kids to the office, they asked where the other kids were, because they thought it was just like their bedrooms.

And while it is easy to write this design approach as superficial or childish – I genuinely believe it can make a difference.

Being surrounded by an environment that celebrates and provokes creativity can only be a good thing, especially if you are paid to think creatively – however, like raising a child, it only works if that extends to what you expect from the people within it.

Frankly, if you create a creative environment you have to let them be creative.

You can’t do that and then create systems and processes that push people to conform to rules.

Creative culture can absolutely be aided by the environment you surround people with, but the reality is it’s ultimately driven by having a culture of freedom and encouragement, which is why it seems to me the nice environments of many agencies are more about the illusion of creativity rather than the celebration, inspiration and ignition of it.

Kinda like what I told Campaign magazine a few years ago …



What If We’re Wrong …

One of the things that bothers me is how data [in marketing] has become law.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of data – or should I say, real data that has been amassed properly, read properly and used properly – but a lot of the stuff today is nothing more than small bits of information packaged to be big bits of information.

Worse, a lot of it has no texture whatsoever … designed to reinforce a position someone wants rather than to inform and enlighten on things you don’t know but would like to find out.

But even then, data is not infallible.

There, I said it.

Data is as good as the people who created it.

And yet day after day, I read about companies who treat their data like its god … even though you can see the flaws in their approach from 10,000 miles away.

From what they’re trying to discover.

To how they’re trying to discover it.

To what they want to do with it once they’ve got it.

No surprise then that so many then go on to report ‘lower than expected’ revenues.

I’m lucky that I work at a place with a progressive view of data, especially with the way we use our Ventures program.

But in addition to that, I work with an amazing data specialist.

She’s cheeky sod who is a bloody legend.

Not just for what she does but for what she pushes.

A believer in the role of culture not just habits.

But another part of her skill is that she knows what data does and what data doesn’t.

Data guides.

It heavily suggests.

It shines a light on important and essential behaviours.

It forces discussions about how best to approach situations.

But it rarely is undisputed, unquestionable, always certain, fact.

To be honest, I believe most people in the marketing field of data knows this but – as is the case with most things in marketing – we go around talking in certainties in an attempt to raise our professional standing when all it does is the opposite.

Hey, I get it, we see it being done in so many fields – from government to finance – but that still doesn’t mean it makes people believe what we’re saying, it just makes us complicit.

The reality is society is far smarter than we give them credit for. The only reason they let so much of this rubbish pass is because they literally don’t care what we say. They have seen so many facts that turned into fiction that they view what we do as literally a game … which is why, while data and strategy still play an important part in making creativity that helps brands move forward, the most powerful differentiator between ideas that culture sees and culture give a shit about is how interesting, intriguing and exciting it is.



Speed Is Status …

Just before Christmas, an engineer put out a Youtube video of his brilliant payback on people who stole Amazon packages from his doorstep.

It’s funny, evil-genius and a celebration of the creativity in engineering.

Anyway, I woke up about 7 hours after he had put it out and said how this was now a creative goal for me at R/GA.

Unsurprisingly I got a lot of positive comments on the film, but there were more than a few that talked about how they loved it when they had seen it earlier.

While it might seen an innocuous comment, saying ‘they’d seen it earlier’ feels like an attempt to suggest they are ‘better’ than me … more in tune than me … more connected than me.

Now the reality is they probably are better than me on all those things, but given the video came out only a few hours after I woke up, it’s not like I am years out-the-loop, despite what this blog may suggest.

I find it interesting because whereas once status was measured in terms of how much money someone had … now it seems to be about how fast we know or have seen things. It’s probably always been that way given I remember how we used to talk about bands in terms of how long we had liked them before they had got popular, but watching people try to elevate their status [in a way that lowers someone else’s] based on seeing a Youtube video 2 hours before someone else feels like social currency is now more valuable to people than actual currency.

Mind you, given the impending disaster that is BREXIT, that is probably the only way we will be able to pay for our groceries soon.



Don’t Blame The Insight, Blame The Person Claiming It …

So a few weeks ago, the very lovely Neil – of Only Dead Fish fame – invited me to talk at Google Firestarters on insights.

This is a subject I’ve written and talked about for years, so it was right up my alley … and yet, despite that, I ended up writing a presentation where the underlying insight appears to be, ‘don’t ask Rob to write presentations on insights’.

For reasons I’m unsure of [though I think ‘fill this blog with something before the end of the year’] I thought it might be good to put it up here for others to look at/abuse. However, as it’s my usual ‘picture, no words’ presentation style, it probably will make little sense … but if it’s any consolation, that’s how the people who heard me give it, thought too.

If you want the general theme of the deck, it’s insights are important because culture is important … and if you know how the culture around categories think, act, operate and interact, then you have information that not only lets you create work that feels born from inside the culture, but can open doors to new possibilities.

Oh, and the bit about the Titanic is that I’m amazed this discussion is still going on because we all know insights matter, it’s where we’re getting them from and how we’re using them that is key. And yet – as an industry – we like to debate the things that we know matter and ignore the fact the majority of the work that’s being put out is an exercise in how to bore the fuck out of everyone with insanely and inanely rational communication.

And yes, I blame clients as much as planners and agencies for this.

It’s like they have forgotten that no one cares about what they care about and the job is to make them give a damn – and the most powerful way to do that is to use creativity in wonderfully mad and chaotic ways because [as Mr Weigel says, both in public and in my presentation] you can be as relevant as hell and still be boring as fuck.

The Henry Ford slag off is simply that he is well known for saying that if he’d asked people what they wanted they’d say a faster horse and my point is, if someone said that, any half decent planner should be able to workout they’re trying to say they want to get from point A to point B quicker than they currently are able.

And if that isn’t an amazing brief, then I don’t know what is.

Anyway, if you want to see the deck, including one of my favorite ever slides – the pic at the top of this post – click here: Firestarters

Enjoy … if that is the right word. Ahem.



If You Need To Make Your Monday More Depressing …
November 26, 2018, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Creativity, Innovation

If you thought bottled water was expensive, try bottled water with an over engineered ring pull.

Look, I get they’re doing their bit for the environment.

And I do appreciate that having a ring pull that reseals means you might keep your drink for longer rather than throwing it away because the bubbles have gone flat.

Seriously, it’s all so over-the-top though I must admit to enjoying watching people trying to work out how to open it when they first get one because – like I did – they want to act all nonchalant but inside, they’re conscious that if they don’t find a way to take a sip soon, they’ve just been publicly humiliated by a can.

Which is even more refreshing than the water.

But I tell you what is even more refreshing than that …

As you read this, I’m in NYC so there’s no more blog posts till Thursday.

THURSDAY!!!

Consider this my Christmas gift from me to you … something I know you will like and not take back to the shop to ask for a refund. Which is a good thing, because the value of this blog is – as you well know – £0.01.

Enjoy the peace, see you Thursday.



You Can’t Change The Future If You Judge Them By The Old Rules …

So a few weeks ago I went to the premiere of the Queen movie, Bohemian Rhapsody.

But it was more than that … I went with my best mate Paul and was surrounded by 6000 Queen fans, the band and the actors from the film.

It turned a movie into a wonderful celebration of an amazing band.

To be honest, while Rami Malek is amazing as Freddie – as is Gwilym Lee as Brian May – the atmosphere from the audience was better than the movie.

To be honest, it was always going to be that way, but as a piece of my personal history – including the re-enactment of so many concerts where I was actually there – it was an amazing thing to be a part of.

Of course this movie is not going to change the opinion of anyone who wasn’t a Queen fan already. And even for them, it’s not going to tell them anything you didn’t already know … but what the movie has done is get the media to conversations with people who were part of the Queen history that previously, had rarely said much about it.

One of them is fashion designer Zandra Rhodes.

She was the person behind the look that – in many ways – defined Freddie and the story she tells in the interview is wonderful, especially the bit where she describes him as a ‘hidden revolutionary’.

Of course she is referring to him in this way because back then, Queen was just starting out, because the idea of Freddie Mercury ever being hidden is quite amusing.

But that is the thing we often forget … that new is always going to be uncomfortable and yet we judge those with new ideas by the standards of the established. Literally trying to kill new thinking before it has a chance to even catch light.

And that’s why we all need to be more open to the unknown and the unexpected.

See where it could take us before we tell it where we want to take them.

Because when we hear people or companies say they want to be like NIKE, APPLE, Freddie Mercury or countless others we forget that to get there took time, patience and letting go … of the old rules, the old expectations and the old answers.